Fast adoption of MRAPs has military catching up
LONDON — The urgency with which the U.S. military bought and deployed thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to counter the roadside bomb threat in Iraq three years ago has left the Army playing catch-up when it comes to sustainment and training for the heavily armored trucks, the Army’s second-in-command said Tuesday.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli said buying MRAPs “off the shelf” from private companies has forced the Army to develop budgets, a training doctrine and other necessities to keep the vehicles in use. Had the heavily armored vehicles been developed in-house, he said, such costs and contingencies would have been incorporated into the development.
“We’re going to make sure the MRAP [program] is sustained, but it’s a struggle,” said Chiarelli, who was speaking at the Land Warfare Conference in London on Tuesday. “None of that was done and we had to catch up.”
The ad-hoc way the MRAP — notable for its V-shaped hull that helps deflect roadside bomb blasts — deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan showcases how much the military has adapted on the fly over much of the past decade.
Some 12,000 MRAPs were deployed to Iraq in the space of 18 months, he said.
The vehicles have since become a staple of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, saving lives and lessening the severity of roadside bomb injuries. In the first year of deployment, there were 300 improvised explosive device attacks against the MRAP and not one death, according to globalsecurity.org.
A recent Army directive requires all troops going outside the wire in eastern Afghanistan to be inside an MRAP, according to a report on www.allGov.com, a government watchdog website.
The current process to bring an Army combat system online takes roughly 10 years, Chiarelli said. It should ideally take closer to four years, he said.
Listing a variety of sleek, modern Army initiatives that address new technology and asymmetrical warfare, Chiarelli touted the Army’s “Ground Combat Vehicle,” a versatile vehicle that could be used in Baghdad, Kabul or southern Afghanistan, reflecting the adaptability needs of today’s military.
The GCV is under development, and the first model could roll out in about seven years, he said.
It would most closely resemble a cross between a Bradley and a tank, but would also be customizable based on the threats in a given environment, according to Maj. Gen. Shelly Martin-Hing, Chiarelli’s spokeswoman. The vehicle would feature different protective systems that can be added and removed as needed, depending on the security situation and other factors in an area of operations, she said.
The last eight years have changed the way the military fights, Chiarelli said. As military doctrine and troop training evolves to counter these new realities, the institutional military must update its technical processes to keep up with the pace of technical development outside the military.
“The reality is we’re on a fast-moving train,” he said.